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Pavlyuchenkova draws curtain on Stosur's singles career

  • Matt Trollope

It was an emotional Thursday afternoon at KIA Arena as Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova struck a final forehand winner to defeat Sam Stosur. 

It completed a 6-2 6-2 win for the Russian No.10 seed to send her through to the third round of Australian Open 2022.

MORE: All the scores from Day 4 at AO 2022

But it also marked the end of Stosur's storied singles career. 

The Australian champion will continue to play doubles – this year she is targeting a second AO title with Chinese partner Zhang Shuai – but announced her decision to cease playing singles after a final appearance at her home Slam. 

And during the on-court ceremony that followed to acknowledge a popular career, which peaked with her stunning triumph over Serena Williams in the final of the 2011 US Open, few were immune from tearing up. 

MORE: AO 2022 women's singles draw

"It was actually very emotional for me too; I had goosebumps when everybody was clapping for Sam," said Pavlyuchenkova, who goes on to face Romania's Sorana Cirstea.

"She's such a wonderful human being also amazing tennis player, so thank you Sam. 

"Of course, I'm always happy when I win, even if I play bad. But it wasn't really the case today; it was actually a very tough match, even though the score was 6-2 6-2. I had to fight for every point."

Stosur's fans came out in force to say goodbye, and thanks

The ceremony then continued so fans could hear from the woman of the hour. 

And Stosur was clearly touched by the outpouring of support and appreciation that emanated from the large crowd assembled at KIA Arena.

"It was great to play out here again, thank you for everyone coming out," said the 37-year-old, who was returning to the same show court where she enjoyed a heart-warming first-round win over American Robin Anderson two days earlier.

"It's a really special moment for me, so thank you for coming and sharing it.

"I've done more than I ever thought was possible. I mean, I dreamed of winning a Grand Slam, and doing close to the things I did. So to do what I've done, (what I was) dreaming as a little kid, I think is phenomenal. I couldn't have asked for any more.

"Obviously (I would like to thank) everyone who's been with me along this 20 years," she continued, acknowledging her parents, brothers and partner who were watching on courtside, and hoping baby daughter Evie was awake to watch the moment.

"All my coaches, they all know who they are; they've all helped me in some way, on and off the court, and shaped me into the person I am."

One of those coaches was Dave Taylor, who worked with Stosur during the years the Australian was at the peak of her powers.

Taylor was in the crowd at KIA Arena watching his former charge in action against Pavlyuchenkova, and while Stosur showed glimpses of the weapons that delivered her momentous success, the Russian was mostly in control. 

Stosur had her moments, but Pavlyuchenkova was always in control

Pavlyuchenkova surged to a 5-1 lead in the opening set, given ample opportunity to set up and deliver solid blows off both wings as Stosur's shots frequently landed short in the middle of the court.

It was a near-identical patter in the second set; Pavlyuchenkova broke in the opening game and never relinquished her lead.

Last year, Pavlyuchenkova's resurgence coincided with Stosur's singles decline.

A month before her 30th birthday, she advanced to her first Grand Slam singles final at Roland Garros, and later peaked at a career-high ranking of No.11, while Stosur was mired in a nine-match losing streak throughout 2021.

Stosur led the head-to-head series 5-4 and had won their past two meetings with Pavlyuchenkova, the most recent at the same stage of Roland Garros in 2018.

But that was almost four years ago, and the stats were instructive.

Pavlyuchenkova moved on to meet Sorana Cirstea in the third round

Pavlyuchenkova finished that Roland Garros match with 20 winners, and on Thursday in Melbourne her winner tally was a near-identical 21.

Stosur fired 27 winners past the Russian in Paris, but could muster only nine this time around. 

But the result did nothing to wipe the smile of the face of Stosur, who was honoured with a tribute video featuring messages from her rivals and fellow Aussies, as well as bouquet of flowers, before completing a lap of honour.

In her 20th Australian Open, this will always be a day to remember.